May 23, 2016
Last week brought Google I/O 2016, an annual software developer-focused conference held by Google in San Francisco. Google and Android developers look forward to this with the same enthusiasm that Apple developers anticipate the WWDC conference, and this year we were not disappointed.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai kicked things off with a keynote address that focused mainly on several consumer products, but towards the end he tossed out a few hints about new and upgraded developer tools. In the following days’ breakout sessions those were revealed one-by-one, frequently blowing away the developer attendees. Many of the most exciting developments were new features in the recently released Android Studio 2.2. Here are a few highlights.
New Layout Editor & Constraint Layout
Android Studio 2.2 includes a new user interface designer that vastly improves visual design of app layouts. In the past, laying out app elements such as buttons, images, text areas, etc. could be a tedious and frustrating process, as items that were well organized on one hardware configuration would seemingly jump into random new locations on different devices. To end that frustration, Android Studio now includes a powerful new editor with features like “blueprint mode” that allow users to create layouts more quickly and easily. The on-stage demo brought the developers to their feet.
There is also a new layout called Constraint Layout that enables designers to create complex interfaces without having to resort to nesting multiple layouts, which are notoriously difficult to manage.
Espresso Test Recorder
Another new tool that wowed Google I/O attendees was a new built-in test recorder, which allows developers to launch an app and record a series of user actions that can be replayed later and evaluated step-by-step for correct results. This is extremely useful in streamlining what has been up to now a very labor-intensive and cumbersome testing process. The tests can be played locally on emulators, or on any number of hardware form factors Google is making available in the cloud.
Developers were also excited to hear about a new tool that allows them to analyze their APK files – the actual installation files that users download to their Android devices when they install apps. Those files can become bloated and time-consuming to download, and up until now developers had to use trial-and-error to figure out how best to slim them down. But a new analyzer tool allows them to drill down into the various components in an APK and identify areas to reduce or eliminate altogether to get the apps onto the users’ devices faster.
And Many More….
These few items barely scratch the surface of the impressive array of additions and improvements being rolled out by Google. And while many of them will be largely invisible to the end user, they will result in faster development cycles, faster downloads and better app performance, leading to improved user experiences across the board.
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